During the first half of February 2016, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Nomination. In making the announcement, Gregory Meeks, Chair of the CBC PAC, quipped, “Blacks are not dumb. They come out for individuals that have their best interest at heart.”
Such an endorsement is considered critical for Clinton, who is embroiled in a battle with Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for President. Sanders and Clinton were virtually tied in the Iowa caucuses and Sanders beat Clinton by over 20 points in the New Hampshire primaries. However, blacks made up a small percentage of voters in each of those contests, so Clinton’s sweeping Super Tuesday wins in states comprising a larger percentage of blacks was critical for Hillary, since blacks have historically been loyal to the Clintons.
But what exactly would African-Americans be getting for their loyalty?
Consider the benchmark established by John Lewis, a stalwart Clinton supporter. Per Lewis, “To be very frank, I never saw him [Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s opponent], I never met him …I was involved in sit-ins, Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the March from Selma to Montgomery…but I met Hillary Clinton, I met President Clinton.” In other words, the only criterion he needs to support Hillary Clinton is the fact that he saw her doing the Civil Rights Movement.
The Civil Rights Movement was not only a story of triumph for blacks in America, it was also a story of triumph for all mankind. There is no question that blacks and all Americans should look back with pride at the courage and strength displayed by Civil Rights leaders – like John Lewis – and countless common, everyday people.
But when black leaders set the standard for their political support to whether or not someone was arrested in a movement 50 years ago, do they not sell African-Americans short?
What about when black leaders settle for politicians showing up in a church on a Sunday morning after a disaster (a la Flint Michigan) to say a few energizing words to encourage the downtrodden, instead of demanding that same politician self-assess what she could have done with her power as a Senator or First Lady to proactively deal with crumbling infrastructure in poor cities?
It is important to note that Clinton went to Flint to encourage support for federal funding, but never took a break from the campaign trail to go to Washington to petition for said funding.
Is it that these black leaders place the bar so low because expectations are so low anyway, or is it that there is some political motivation in providing a loyal voting bloc without providing some firm, substantive commitments on what returns would be given for their loyalty?
Perhaps if these leaders set the bar a bit higher, we could have Clinton give detailed plans on how she is going to shrink the wealth gap between blacks and whites – which continues to widen as minorities struggle to recover after the Great Recession at the same rate as Whites, per the Pew Research Center.
Perhaps these black leaders could have a closed door meeting to get some of these firm commitments, like the leaders of Goldman Sachs and others did with Hillary Clinton and her husband via $153 million in speaking fees.
Rest assured that the Clintons did not get paid $153 million to sing “We Shall Overcome” in church with Goldman Sachs leadership. It can be safely assumed that more specific expectations were discussed in these proceedings – although we will never know for sure until those transcripts are released.
Perhaps blacks leadership could ask what happened during the 2008 election. It is not in the spirit of the Civil Rights movement to hire someone like a Geraldine Ferraro, who stated the only reason then-Senator Barack Obama was leading in the polls was because of “preferential treatment” due to his race, ignoring his political capabilities. Answers should also be sought for her husband’s statement to Edward Kennedy (per the book Game Change), “A few years ago, this guy [Obama] would be getting us coffee”.
Unfortunately, those questions will not be asked. That is not the way politics work. While black leaders will choose paths prioritizing their own self-interests, black voters should focus on ensuring politicians are held to a higher standard than what march they were in 50 years ago or what church service they attended right before a critical vote. Perhaps then, we can get to true accountability from our political leaders and get something substantive for our support.
At least something within the last half-century.
An economic conservative till the end, Hughey strongly believes in the power of self-empowerment as the solution to many of society's problems. He is a business consultant for a management advisory firm in the Washington DC area and a contributor to Project 21, a black conservative organization. He also appears on television as a political and policy commentator on TVOne and RT. A graduate of Stanford Univeristy and Harvard Business School, Hughey believes that education and economic awareness are the keys to empower Americans to take back our nation.